27.02.2023 Author: Valery Kulikov

How and why is Pakistan assisting Ukraine?

Recently, reports that Pakistan, which previously attempted to portray itself as a supporter of Russia, started to provide assistance to Ukraine, including weapons, against the backdrop of the special operation carried out by Moscow against the neo-fascist regime of Kyiv, have been increasingly published by media outlets other than Ukrainian and Indian media.

Islamabad’s “political swing” has previously been noted. Consider the early 1970s, when Pakistan was in the grip of an economic crisis, and to get out of it, then-Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto decided to “interest” the socialist camp by announcing a course to build Islamic socialism and turned to Moscow for assistance. During his state visit to the Soviet Union in 1974, Bhutto requested financial assistance, which Moscow granted to Pakistan at the time, financing the construction of metallurgical plants, modernization of the energy sector, and agricultural development.  However, when the time came to repay the loans received, Pakistan, after the coup d’état, by the decision of the army general Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, who headed the country, declared all the agreements concluded by his predecessor with the USSR “corrupt” and refused to honor previous agreements with Moscow.

Furthermore, influenced by Washington, Zia-ul-Haq engaged in military action with the USSR in Afghanistan and provided military assistance to the Afghan Mujahideen. Pakistani soldiers engaged in direct armed clashes with Soviet troops during the process, and camps for Soviet prisoners of war were established on Pakistani territory, where they were subjected to the most heinous tortures.

When it came time to repay the American loans, Islamabad remembered Moscow yet again. As a result of the terrorist attack, Zia-ul-Haq was killed and Pakistan announced its desire for “rapprochement” with Russia and China. The result was Pakistan’s accession to the SCO in 2017. The PRC became Pakistan’s largest investor, and it was one of the main participating countries in China’s One Belt, One Road project.

After Russia launched a special operation in Ukraine, Islamabad experienced another (this time a parliamentary) coup, as a result of which the new authorities of this country announced a policy of rapprochement with the West and began, at the request of Washington, to cooperate with the neo-fascist Kyiv, supplying it with weapons and ammunition.

Though, the close military cooperation between Pakistan and Ukraine did not start today but since 1991 within the framework of bilateral arms contracts. Under these contracts, Pakistan used Kyiv’s assistance to repair its fleet of over 320 T-80 tanks purchased from Ukraine.

In May 2022, Ukrainian singer Kamaliya Zahoor, who is married to Pakistani citizen businessman Mohammad Zahoor, announced to Ukrainian media that Pakistan had handed over two fighter planes to Ukraine just in the first three months of Moscow’s special operation against the Kyiv regime.

In 2022, Pakistan became an important link in the transfer of British weapons to Ukraine. It became known that in August 2022, military aircraft delivered weapons to Romania from Pakistan’s Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi, bypassing the airspace of Iran and Afghanistan, via the British airbase on the Mediterranean Sea. The British Air Force C-17A Globemaster III made at least five flights between August 6 and 14. And, taking into account the loading capacity of the C-17, it was able to transport about 400 tons of Pakistani ammunition for the needs of the AFU. Although there was no official communication from either the United Kingdom or Pakistan about the nature of the cargo transported, videos of Ukrainian artillerymen unpacking artillery shells produced by the Pakistani military-industrial complex spread in social networks.

In addition to the air bridge, the media reported that container shipping was used to transport weapons from Pakistan to Ukraine. Thus, the Pakistani shipping company Project Shipping delivered 146 containers from Pakistani artillery factories from Karachi. This included 50,000 artillery shells, which were transported through the Polish port of Gdansk. Also involved in the transport of Pakistani weapons is Islamabad-based supplier DMI Associates, which has recently been working closely with defense firms in Eastern Europe to supply the Ukrainian army.

According to The Economic Times, On February 11 this year, a shipment of over 10,000 rockets intended for use in Grad MLRS was shipped from the port of Karachi to the German port of Emden for later use by the AFU in the Western-inspired armed conflict with Russia.

According to unconfirmed information, Washington and London have recently been persistently persuading the current Pakistani authorities to re-export to the Kyiv regime some of the Ukrainian T-80 tanks previously purchased from Kyiv as part of their plans to replenish the Ukrainian army with combat tanks to counter Russia.

It should be noted that during the previous Islamabad regime, Pakistani-Ukrainian relations were governed by the precise policy of previous Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who avoided conflict with Russia and criticized the US. However, the Pakistani army, which openly despised him and played a role in his dismissal, did not share his criticism of US policies or desire for constructive cooperation with Russia. Furthermore, Islamabad’s current and former ambassadors to Ukraine, who have military backgrounds, have had a significant impact on the development and intensification of military cooperation with Kyiv.

In this regard, during Imran Khan’s presidency, Pakistan’s policy in Ukraine was not overtly anti-Russian. However, after Moscow launched the special operation in Ukraine and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took office, not only the rhetoric but also the policy of Islamabad changed dramatically. In order to solve its financial and economic problems and support the national military-industrial circles, Pakistan has emphasized its support for the Ukrainian army’s requests in a climate of secrecy, in contrast to the United States and Britain, on which it has recently become oriented.

The desire of Islamabad not to publicize its support for the Ukrainian army and to conduct such affairs in secrecy is clearly due to the fact that if it officially recognizes such actions, Moscow may make significant changes to the plans for Russia’s participation in bilateral cooperation in the energy sector, which were recently discussed with Pakistan. Furthermore, given Beijing’s very different position from Islamabad on the operation in Ukraine, Sino-Pakistani relations, which are very important for the Pakistani economy here, may be subject to revision.

And, given the obvious interest of ordinary Pakistanis in the expansion and deepening of economic cooperation with China and Russia, the Sharif administration’s decision to engage in the Ukrainian conflict in order to appease Washington and London is unlikely to strengthen its position in the country…

Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

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